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One-Armed Man Arrested for Clapping

It happened in Belarus in 2011, where dinosaurish old-school dictator Alexander Lukashenko was (as he still is) happily oppressing his people and presiding over the collapse of whatever economy remained in the former Soviet state. Lukashenko was elected in 1994 and has been president ever since, having repeatedly won in the kind of elections where the winner gets 93.5 percent of the vote with the remaining 6.5 percent going to his mustache. He has charmingly described his own son as "a useless weakling" and recently told Germany's (openly gay) foreign minister that it was "better to be a dictator than gay." Assuming those to be mutually exclusive categories, then most of his own people would prefer he come out of the closet (and then go into exile). He is a thug.

And so it is not surprising that when public protests broke out in 2011 over the collapsing economy, Thugashenko responded by having thousands arrested for whatever reason or no reason at all. Most of them, according to the Christian Science Monitor, "were fined heavily or jailed for up to 15 days on police court testimony that they were expressing a political opinion by clapping their hands." Activists and protesters there had adopted applause as a symbol of protest, which is brilliant because now that clapping has been associated with dissent, the regime reportedly has had to forbid it at its own events, such as traditional military parades, which must parade along silently. Authoritarian regimes rely heavily on forcing people to play along, and now forced applause is not an option.

read more: http://www.loweringthebar.net/2013/01/one-armed-man-arrested-for-clapping.html

Kabul attack on female actors leaves survivors facing more 'punishment'

Even after the taunts and threats for appearing on TV, and whispered criticism of "immodest" outfits, the attack on actor sisters Areza and Tamana, and their friend Benafsha, came as a surprise.

The trio were minutes from moving out of a neighbourhood in which conservative locals had made them feel unwelcome, walking to meet a minivan full of their possessions, when six men surrounded them in a lane, lined with high-walled compounds. They left Benafsha bleeding to death outside a mosque with stab wounds, and the injured sisters desperately seeking help.

"I didn't see the TV programme, I just heard the local boys saying that one of them played a role with boys," said Yaqin Ali Khalili, owner of a shop that the women frequented. "The hatred of the people here is the reason she was killed, I am 100% sure," he added.

Word travels fast in Kabul, and in a couple of days other actresses were being intimidated. One prominent young actress, Sahar Parniyan, received death threats and has gone into hiding. On the rare occasions she still ventures out she has to wear the burqas she used to despise. "The threats were in calls at midnight, or 2am when I was deep asleep, using very bad words and repeating 'you will be next for assassination'," Parniyan told the Guardian in an interview at a secret location. "I cannot continue my life as an actress in Afghanistan, although I love my job. The Taliban are against women, but so are other groups … Afghanistan is not made for women, whether actresses or not."

read more:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/06/afghanistan-attack-female-actors

Impunity for the rich and famous leaves Thais outraged

A dented silver Ferrari, a dead Thai policeman whose body was dragged for 200 meters under its wheels, a family driver ready to take the fall for the wealthy 27-year-old heir to the world-famous Red Bull energy drink empire.

This was the story splashed across the front pages in Thailand on Tuesday and a hot topic on web boards, where the common assumption was that a culture of impunity for the wealthy business and political elite would once again prevail.

Vorayuth Yoovidhya, a grandson of the late founder of Red Bull, billionaire Chaleo Yoovidhya, had initially fled the scene but later confessed to hitting the policeman, police said. He was released hours later on 500,000 baht ($16,000) bail.

Though Vorayuth has yet to appear in court, there seemed little faith among the public that justice would be served.

"Jail is only for the poor. The rich never get punished. Find a scapegoat," said one of a stream of comments posted on the popular Thai website, Panthip.com.

Another on news site Manager.co.th read: "He'll probably just get a suspended sentence. What's the cost of a life?"

read full story:  Reuters